MAstars 2011: Jeremy Hutchison, MA Fine Art Media

MAstars 2011: Jeremy Hutchison, MA Fine Art Media Jeremy Hutchison, Err (installation detail), 2011. Mixed media. 2000cm x 5000cm x 5000cm. Credit: Jeremy Hutchison

Julia Alvarez selects Jeremy Hutchison from Slade School of Fine Art for MAstars


The Slade School of Fine Art had a strong year with many artists showing installation works, film and sculpture. On wandering through the thin corridors into wide open rooms and up steel staircases to mezzanine levels, I found the artist Jeremy Hutchison, whose work stood out for me both in approach and the manner of its display.

Long chest-height tables were laid out with objects, like archaeological specimens. In some ways there was nothing remarkable about this, but on closer inspection, each piece had a major dysfunction: for instance a shovel with the handle moved to make it unusable but very sculptural, a broken chair, a pair of 80’s revival sunglasses with the nose area filled in and a smokers pipe, with nowhere to stuff tobacco. Pinned to the wall next to the ‘specimen’ tables were emails, documenting the conversation between the artist and the manufacturer of objects. In his initial correspondence with the various manufacturers (the majority based in China) the artist asks for the following:

  • I would like this product to be made with an error
  • This error must make it impossible to use the product for its ordinary purpose
  • The factory worker must choose what error to make: it is entirely his/her decision
  • I will accept whatever the worker chooses to make

Some of the back-correspondence was amusing, such as an email from 'Kween Wong': 'I really don't know your meaning? Are you joking sir?' Others say 'it seems you need us to fabricate combs incorrectly and combs cannot comb hair?' This correspondence opened up the work on many levels, connecting it with a wealth of social, political and artistic discourse.

To tackle a few ways of reading the work, it is necessary to focus on the mode of production. The age of technology and mass production does not allow for imperfections, and factory workers are organised on the basis of order and production per minute. It is touching to see the objects related to the producers, the imperfections relate to someone making a choice and breaking out of a set mould. Other outcomes of the work include a Dadaist approach that is perhaps orchestrated by the artist, who appears to invoke the DADA manifesto of poking fun at systems and the modern world, in this case the organisation of industrial production. Most obviously links can be made to the ready-made, Dali's 'Lobster Telephone' or Duchamp's 'Bicycle Wheel'.

This project and artistic investigation have obviously been thought through, and offer a neat concept to hang the work on, but for me the most successful part is the way in which the artist has indirectly engaged the 'worker' with the end-consumer of the product, in this case the viewer in the exhibition. In one response, Jeremy was told by the manufacturer about a chair a worker decided to destroy with a giant stone: 'workers have many constraints in production…anyway, he asked me to say 'thank you' to you, and he was happy and enjoyed the process…the feeling is great he said after he cut the chair piece to piece.' 'You are a really strange man, but it's interesting to cooperate with you. Hope you are satisfied with my service.'

Selected by Julia Alvarez
Published September, 2011

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